Alaska Robotics

U.S. Forest Service Photography Rules

Thursday, September 25th 2014 by Pat

EDIT 9/26/2014 – I’m not going to delete my original post but my thoughts on this have evolved quite a bit in the past 24 hours. The short version is that the rules aren’t quite as draconian as news sources reported. A tidy summary of the rules available at WNCOutdoors.info.

smokey bearThere was a sensational headline in our newspaper today related to a U.S. Forest Service proposal which could create more strict permitting for photographers. As a filmmaker and occasional photographer who lives in the Tongass, a 17 million acre temperate rain forest, this would have an effect on me and many of my friends.

The article makes it seem like the Forest Service is coming after anyone snapping selfies with a tree in the background but the reality is that this will only impact commercial photographers. The problem I see is that many talented artists make a living from their work and it’s often quite meager. To lump in Mark Kelly with Indiana Jones (some scenes were shot at Yosemite!) is an appropriate compliment but wholly unfair in a commercial context.

Here is the public comment I sent to the Forest Service:

Hi, I’m a filmmaker from Southeast, Alaska and I ask that you rethink your rule on commercial photography.

I run a small studio, I work on small projects and I worry that you are about to create a situation where small studios and independent producers will not be able to participate while those with deep pockets and vast budgets will roam free. I fear they will be the only ones who can afford to capture images of our shared wilderness under this proposal.

Ansel Adams was a commercial photographer whose work you should know well. He loved nature and made a living by sharing the images he captured. You probably also know that without his photographs, we would probably not count Yosemite Valley among our parks. It was his commercial photography and heartfelt advocacy that was key to the expansion of our parks system.

I insist that you do not create a rule that will be a barrier to true artists whose work may be of a commercial nature but ultimately aligns with the ideals of our National Park system. Do not create barriers to photographers who seek to document and share the beauty of nature.

While we’re talking about artists whose work is of a commercial nature, why should visual artists be singled out? Why does this fee not apply to the many poets and writers who draw their inspiration and make their living from within our national parks? I hope that is a question that you can answer before you move forward with your process. If it is a matter of impact then charge fees based on relative impact to all users of the parks. A single commercial photographer observing the rules of a park does no more damage than a single hiker.

I will of course understand if you decide to create a special level of permitting hell for projects related to commercial advertisements and reality television.

All my best,
Pat Race
Juneau, AK

Liz Close, the Forest Service’s acting wilderness director, claims that these regulations are required to implement The Wilderness Act of 1964. I think that’s a bit flimsy. In reading the document, it appears to me that commercial photography must be banned altogether or recognized, as it already is, as a proper recreational activity.

Commercial guides are allowed to help people find their way through the wilderness. Commercial photographers and artists help us to see, understand and appreciate these places from other important perspectives.

EDIT – Greg points out that I’m referring to the Park Service and the Forest Service interchangeably here and I shouldn’t. I hope my point comes through regardless, we need to protect small scale commercial use.

And to further lay bare my ignorance, a soothing walk through the issue by Carl Johnson complete with those decimal point number things that make me fall asleep.

Alaska’s Best Galleries and Museums

Wednesday, July 30th 2014 by Pat

laska-robotics-insideWe were recently contacted by The Culture Trip, a site aimed at connecting travelers to local arts and cultural experiences:

“We have identified Alaska Robotics as one of the most exciting galleries in Alaska. So therefore we would would like to feature it in our article: Alaska’s 10 Best Contemporary Art Galleries.”

I was skeptical at first, I thought it might be some kind of Who’s Who scam but they didn’t try to hit us up for money or harvest any data.

As it turns out, they actually put together a quite well researched article on some of my favorite galleries and museums in Alaska. It covers a wide range of regional hubs and they really did their homework on each location.

Now, I don’t know if we belong in the top ten, that’s certainly debatable, but we’re certainly honored by the company. The list features some true cultural touchstones, places everyone should make time to visit.

Thanks to our wonderful employees, guest artists, friends, family and patrons for making the Alaska Robotics Gallery the kind of place that gets mentioned in articles like this!

Packing my Bitcoins for San Diego Comic Con

Saturday, July 19th 2014 by Pat

bitcoin accepted hereI’m off to San Diego Comic Con in a few days and I’m packing my BTC!

We’ll be accepting the digital currency at our booth (#1134) but I’m also packing a couple hundred milliBits on my phone to spend on weird and wonderful things.

I’ve been buying Bitcoin (and Litecoin) for a while but I haven’t spent any in the wild yet so this is all very new and exciting to me.

I’m using the Mycelium wallet after getting a few recommendations from the folks in the /r/Bitcoin/ community. Several people also mentioned the Hive wallet but I haven’t tried that one yet.

We’ll see how the experiment goes, I hope I don’t drop my phone in a toilet the first day! I do seem to remember some phone trouble at last year’s convention. Something involving shards of glass and the smell of juniper.

However it unfolds, I’m looking forward to some adventures in cryptocurrency. Who knows what I’ll find, maybe some great comics and a burrito cart. That’s pretty much the dream.

Mmmm… Burritos.

San Diego Comic Con 5k

Monday, July 14th 2014 by Pat

FlashThe past several years I’ve been organizing an unofficial San Diego Comic Con 5k.

If you’d like to join in, let’s plan to tentatively meet on Saturday at 10am 8am on the water side of the convention center. I’ll be at the foot of the big staircase wearing a Flash shirt.

Probably a good idea to check in on Friday in case we have to relocate or the time changes. You can find me at booth #1134 or on Twitter @alaskarobotics

I think our peak attendance in the past has been around four. It’s not something I’ve ever been able to put much effort into organizing so if there’s someone else out there who wants to take it and run with it, please jump in.

I would just love someday to see a few hundred Juggernauts thumping down the San Diego waterfront along with a horde of Flashes and Quicksilvers.

5k

Map of Downtown Juneau

Monday, June 30th 2014 by Pat

I love illustrated maps so I made one of downtown Juneau.

map title

The map will be available as a limited print at the gallery and I’ll also be handing out a bunch of the fold-up walking guides for free to local businesses and tourists.

The back includes information on nightlife, basic survival, food and all my favorite things about downtown Juneau.

2014 juneau map

If you’re wondering about the economics, it started out as a map of just a few places I like and grew from there. I didn’t charge anyone and we’re paying for the printing ourselves. I hope to make my money back by selling prints. I also hope putting this out there is good publicity for the gallery and brings a few people in the door who might not find us.

Beyond attracting people to the gallery, I want visitors to be able to appreciate Juneau as much as I do. I want them to find places they’ll love like The Rookery Café or secret spots they might miss like Aunt Claudia’s Doll Museum.

This work had two primary inspirations, the 1984 Fiesta Promotions map of the Juneau area (below) and the Americae Sive Quartae Orbis Partis Nova Et Exactissima Descriptio.

fiesta juneau map

News Project Update

Thursday, June 5th 2014 by Pat

IMG_20140204_180426

Important announcement! Alaskan legislators will give you free walrus pins. Free!

Also, while we’re chatting, remember how we promised six episodes of our series but only produced five? The official line has been that we’re working on it. I don’t think that’s true anymore, we’re not working on it, we’re putting it off.

The original plan was to deliver our final episode right after session ended but the session not-ended. Then it not-ended some more. Then the fanged beast of “real work” decided to bite into our tender haunch.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that the fanged beast of “real work” loves haunch.

Now, the reality we’re up against is one of timing. The political excitement in Alaska has been drowned out by the thundering hooves of tourists and it just doesn’t seem like the right time to deliver our final punch.

We’ve decided it will be best to wait and roll out our final episode a little closer to election time, when stakes are higher and more people are paying attention.

I hope you’re ok with this decision, it wasn’t one we made lightly. We want to do good work on this show and didn’t feel like it would be responsible to rush something out between other projects. We have some fun sketches written and even a musical number we’re working on.

This is *quite* the election coming up: Oil Tax Repeals, Marijuana, Minimum Wage and more Dan Sullivans than you can shake a stick at. Plus, a Gubernatorial Three-way!

At any rate, I don’t think this will be the last-last episode. We’re looking into ways to continue producing Alaska Robotics News next session. We’re talking to several media organizations about potential partnerships and we’re trying to decide if it makes more sense to raise funds through another Kickstarter effort, seek funding more directly through sponsors or just go pull an elaborate Tanzanite heist. Probably the latter.

Thank you again for all your support. We’ve had a lot of success with the show and we’re really hoping it’s something people want to see happen again next year. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Peggy Shumaker

Thursday, May 29th 2014 by Pat

I was recently commissioned to create a short film about Peggy Shumaker, recipient of the 2014 Rasmuson Foundation Distinguished Artist Award.

Aaron and I flew up to Fairbanks for a few days in the spring and had a great time interviewing Peggy and getting more familiar with her work.

For more perspective, I strongly recommend reading her memoir, Just Breathe Normally. Much of what we tried to share here was drawn from the framework of that memoir.

A poetic side note, the shattered wind chimes in the documentary are the actual chimes from her story. She found them shattered on the deck just a few days before we arrived to film and I thought it would be good to include them as both an object of significance and a visual metaphor.

The completely caved-in tire is from her accident as well.

Latitude: 2014 Alaska Arts Convergence

Tuesday, May 6th 2014 by Pat

I recently attended the Alaska Arts and Culture Conference as a filmmaker in residence. It was an exciting and frantic process which involved capturing footage over the first two days of the conference and then immediately leaning into an all-night editing session so that I could present a finished film at the close of the conference.

I had no plan going into the project and I let my interactions with people guide me along the way. The resulting film is a tiny bit experimental and almost evolved into a narrative piece about reindeer sausage. Despite all that, it somehow managed to stay nicely on the rails.

The resulting mini-doc was created completely from audio and visuals captured during the event and what you see here is exactly the film I presented at the conference with the exception of a couple new title cards.

Gallery News!

Tuesday, April 29th 2014 by Pat

The latest news from the gallery: shows, celebrations and FREE COMICS!!!

may 4th

AKRN – Episode 5

Tuesday, April 22nd 2014 by Pat

Show Opening

News of Alaskans using drones for hunting has lead to new regulations. Finally, a reason to bring back Dron-E, the Digital Robotic Omnipresent News Entity.

The HUD elements used in creating Dron-E came from an After Effects pack provided by Roland at Graphic in Motion. Thanks Roland!

No marmots were harmed in the making of this bit.

Monologue

The Alaska Dispatch has purchased the Anchorage Daily News which may be the best or worst thing ever depending on who you talk to.

Personally, I’m an avid reader of the Dispatch and I like seeing our news media take a bend toward something more locally owned. Sure, Alice Rogoff is a relative newcomer and has some loose ties to lucrative permanent fund investment deals but she seems genuinely interested in the state and its people.

I’m on board and hopeful that we’ll see good things.

The house passed an exciting minimum wage bill that turned the world upside down for a while. It was a not-so-subtle attempt to undermine a fall initiative and protect against the repeal of last session’s oil tax. I enjoyed hearing so many legislators flip their positions at once. It was opposite day.

To cap it all off, Speaker Mike Chenault quoted former Rep. Ethan Berkowitz during a big floor speech. He invoked the specter of the Veco scandal and shared a photo of Ed Flanagan flashing a giant dollar sign during a meeting. Was the message a threat? A gentle reminder? An abbreviation for F-note?

My reference to an out-of-state intern was a jab at the practice of allowing non-Alaskans to serve on certain boards. It’s not just the notion that Alaskans are too inexperienced or stupid to hold these positions, it’s the much larger problem of overt economic colonialism.

I can see how Rabinow, a former Exxon Pipeline Co. employee, might be naturally inclined to help out his former employer. What I can’t see is why he would want to work on behalf of Alaskans.

Gasline – Buy the Numbers

Many of those lovely quotes were provided by actual economists, advisers and prognosticators on the oil tax.

Many of the beautiful slides we used can be found by clicking through to the documents accompanying the bill. You can really go down the rabbit hole with Basis, be warned…

Tara also put a pretty good math joke in there that reminded me how much math I’ve forgotten since college.

Pure Gavel

You can actually own your favorite gavel episodes. I recommend “Chenault’s Big Speech” or “Dancing with Bob Lynn”

This sketch was inspired by Time Life classics such as…

The wooden gavel phone was an edited photograph by Dori which we pulled from Wikipedia.

Meet the Alaska Legislature

We had a great time putting together this sketch with Rep. Doug Isaacson’s office and I think it showed. I only wish I had more time to spend on the special effects. It’s hard to see the scene with the miniaturized Brenda Hewitt but she’s in there!

Gardnin’ Wild Alaska

Exploding Igloo Productions is back with another of their perennial Alaska reality shows.

If those tater tots look good, you can find them at the Imperial. Just ask for Totchos.

The blood is delicious cranberry juice.

Running with Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux

Let me say this, Gabrielle LeDoux is a good sport.

This was a crazy shoot. It was cold and the rain was coming down hard the whole time. Aaron and LeDoux ran behind the car while Lou hung out the back with a camera and I ran backwards with the cues scrawled on giant pieces of wet cardboard.

We went through multiple takes and LeDoux was more patient with us than we deserved.

I like her idea of more early childhood reading programs in Alaska. It’s a simple concept to grasp that if you don’t learn to read, you can’t use reading to learn other skills. It also makes a snappy tagline, “Learn to Read, Read to Learn.”

This year was supposed to be the education session, I would have liked to have seen more discussion on this bill.

Foundation first, then the house.